July 22, 2012

Bolting for Boston

It has been hotter than Hades here in New York City so when the possibility of a quick trip to Boston came up I thought "why not?"  Friends had recommended the Bolt Bus service as a safe, comfortable and very economical mode of transportation so Friday morning I took off with a sandwich, a book and my iPhone and rode the Bolt up North to Beantown!

One of my objectives for the trip was to visit the now not-so-new Art of the Americas Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston which had been under construction during my last visit in 2008.  Designed by the London architecture firm of Foster & Partners, the expansion increased the museum's exhibition space by half and provided a new home for their collections from North, Central and South America.

I guess I am an old fogey in a lot of ways but I tend to like things the way they were.  I loved the old MFA with its classical building and traditional approach to installing and presenting art.  While the new addition is not as grating as the Renzo Piano re-make of the Morgan Library here in New York, it is all about the building and not about the art.  For example, what had been a very nice courtyard is now a soaring atrium - four stories of glass with a restaurant on the ground floor - with the only art on display being two new commissioned sculptures that can withstand the intense sunlight beating through the windows.

But I digress.  The Art of the Americas Wing also comprises four levels of galleries arranged chronologically from ancient American, Native American, and 17th Century art on the lowest level to 20th Century art on the top floor.  Here, displayed in 53 new galleries, are 5,000 works of art from the museum's extensive collection covering 3,000 years of North American culture.  Not everything is a masterpiece, but the MFA does own some magnificent pieces and I was very happy to see John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit", 1882, occupying a suitably important location on Level 2.

Also very enjoyable were several small but worthwhile exhibitions presented in corridors or galleries leading to bigger shows.  I particularly liked "Manet in Black", a group of 50 prints and drawings on a variety of subjects that clearly demonstrated Manet's mastery of the use that color.  I also enjoyed "Paper Zoo", featuring prints, drawings and photographs of animals, birds and sea creatures by artists ranging from Dürer to Audubon to Picasso.  Edward Weston's photographs of urban American landscapes taken during a cross-country road trip in 1941 with the purpose of illustrating a deluxe edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" was fascinating.  And my Canadian heritage cannot be denied - I loved the presentation of photographer Yousof Karsh's portraits of Queen Elizabeth II in honor of her Diamond Jubilee!

It was great fun to be back in Boston, even for a short visit, and I hope to be able to Bolt back very soon again!

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